Technically, Luka Dončić and Ja Morant have the same job.
They are point guards entrusted with running a team and being the faces of their respective franchises.
Yet, rarely have two people gone about their business in such different ways.
Memphis’ superstar, who will visit American Airlines Center Saturday night, is an ultra-athletic highlight machine who can fly high, dunk hard and beat just about anybody off the dribble.
Then there is Dončić. In their home opener, the Mavericks will follow Luka’s brand of leadership – stepping back for 3-pointers, posting up, creating mismatches in the paint and finding teammates for wide-open shots.
Athleticism? Well, while Luka is more athletic than most people give him credit for, he’ll never be confused with Morant.
Maybe they aren’t polar opposites because they do share one common attribute – the burning desire to win at everything they do.
But when he was asked to describe Morant on Friday, Dončić said: “He can do everything. Obviously, he’s one of the fastest guys out there. Since the first year, he improved a lot with his shooting, his playmaking. He’s a really complete player and he’s going to be hard to stop.”
Told that description sounds like what other people say about him, he quickly said: “Not fast, not fast.”
OK, he’s got a point. Dončić plays at his own pace, which is slow, steady and effective.
Morant plays at warp speed, and is equally effective.
But they both have that one true passion.
“I think the one way they go about it is: it’s all about winning,” coach Jason Kidd said. “The best players in this league are about winning. Ja’s about winning, making plays, not just offensively, but we’ve seen the highlights coming up with steals or blocked shots. He’s going to do whatever it takes to help his team win.
“They’re one of the fastest teams in the league. All eyes will be on him and we got to figure out how to slow him down.”
Which is sort of what other teams say about Luka, except they try to speed him up, pushing him out of his normal pace.
So far, nobody has had much success containing either of them.
As the season began, Morant made it no secret that he’s hoping to make a run at the MFP award this season.
“He’s got the team to do it,” Kidd said. “It’s all about winning and he’s all about winning. That’s who Ja is. It’s about team. It’s about winning. If his team is in position like they were last year, he’ll be in that conversation for MVP.”
Last season, the Grizzlies went 56-26, the second-best record in the NBA.
This year, they remain one of the youngest, hungriest teams in the league, which will make them dangerous in the regular season. Other teams, like Golden State, the Los Angeles Clippers, Denver and even the Mavericks to some extent put all their marbles on trying to be on top of their game come playoff time.
Morant is entering his fourth season in the league, Dončić his fifth.
Last year, Morant averaged 27.4 points, 6.7 assists and 5.7 rebounds. Dončić was at 28.4 points, 8.7 assists and 9.1 rebounds.
“It’s always good to go against a player like that,” Luka said. “It’s fun, hopefully, for the fans.”
It’s worth noting that in the all-important area of winning, Luka has had the upper hand against Morant, who has played seven games against the Mavericks and owns a 2-5 record.
It’s also worth noting that one of those losses, Jan. 23 of last season, was by 13 points at AAC and featured a 35-point, 13-rebound, 6-assist, 7-turnover eruption by Morant.
Fireworks certainly are possible, maybe even likely, when these two get together.
Luka said the Mavericks will have no problem putting their opener at Phoenix in the rearview mirror. They squandered a 22-point lead in that game.
But the only thing worse than starting a season 0-1 is starting it 0-2.
And, as he said Friday, it’s not about him vs. Morant. The Mavericks need to take care of business. They need to quickly rinse out the aftertaste of the Phoenix loss.
But along the way, Luka and Morant will provide a terrific early season treat for fans.
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